Modern football is ostentatious, polished and saturated with money. Transfer deadline day, which is ostensibly just a period of 24 hours, becomes infused with the mentality that probably permeated the city during the last days of Rome. It is the beautiful game at its most unkempt. Clubs flock to the footballing bargain bin and rummage through the morass within until picking out a dead rubber, in this case Richard Wright, who joined Manchester City on the same day as Brazilian international and 2009 Ballon d’Or nominee Julio Cesar moved to Queens Park Rangers, leading to scenes of utter confusion and delirium within the W12 postcode where the west London club are based.
All of the above takes place because, despite having months to begin and conclude negotiations, make enquiries, scout players and build a team, clubs appear to be excessively fond of “leaving it late”. Trouble is, this almost always involves paying through the nose for a player that is subsequently placed under inexorable pressure to live up to their unrealistic valuation. One example springs to mind to support this statement, and it is Andy Carroll. The 23-year-old joined West Ham United on loan as Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers decided that, having made the club’s worst start to a season for 50 years, he didn’t need a striker valued at £30m this time last year.
Very occasionally, transfer deadline day lives up to the hype and expectation doled out ad nausea by Sky Sports News by bringing forth dramatic last ditch signings by the dominant forces in English football, notably Robinho joining Manchester City in 2010. This time around and the day’s saving grace failed to produce even an ounce of drama late in the day. There were some excellent acquisitions and notable arrivals, including Hugo Lloris moving to Tottenham Hotspur, but on the whole it was slim pickings, a morass, boredom incarnate. Not only this, but that most spine chilling of phrases, “Sky Sports understands”, has its roots in the transfer deadline day fun and games of recent years. Perhaps the broadcaster may, by now, understand that despite generously offering blanket coverage of all the day’s trials and tribulations, few will be writing “thank you” cards. One would have expected the richest league in the world to have pulled off at least one significant transfer that, rather than being merely a solid addition to an individual squad, brightens up the league for all that follow it. On the lines of Neymar, perhaps?
Instead the most exciting, and this term is meant to be taken in the loosest sense, signings concerned QPR, 17th-placed finishers last season, newly-promoted Southampton and rough and ready Stoke City, the antithesis of beauty and glamour. Safe to say that, no matter how well the south coast club did to attract Bologna striker Gaston Ramirez, it isn’t really enough to set the pulses racing. Nor is the capture of Stephane Mbia by the Rs, which garnered greater attention because the Frenchman’s arrival was in tandem with the departure, hopefully forever, of Joey Barton. And Stoke City? Well, they signed Charlie Adam. Stylish and swashbuckling, the 26-year-old is actually, all jokes aside, a very good signing. However, the above point still stands. It was a slow day at the office. The sort of slow day that has such a profound effect on staff that they raid the proverbial dressing up box in the absence of anything important to be getting on with.
While the duller lights of the top flight failed to entice us with their tepid glow, even the top four or six clubs shied away from the big names. Rumours concerning Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur predominantly concerned up and coming players. There was not a superstar to be found as Matija Nastasić and Javi Garcia were unveiled by the champions, known for recruiting high-profile players, at a lavish press conference. Perhaps this means, therefore, that the “marquee signing” simply was not in this season? In fact, he may well have been out. Arguably the biggest name involved in any of the breaking stories on transfer deadline was Rafael van der Vaart, shipped out of White Hart Lane by Andre Vilas Boas and his regeneration project, which seems to revolve around destroying the spine of the current Spurs squad.
And now for a brief moment of pure, unadulterated and venomously pleasurable comedy. Another manager currently trying to work a miracle within five minutes by chopping and changing players and discarding members of his squad at random is Rodgers, over on Merseyside. Clint Dempsey, Fulham’s talented playmaker, was so evidently on his list of targets that the Northern Irishman probably employed a “wing man” to entice the American to Anfield. Thus, when the 29-year-old elected to join Spurs instead, Rodgers described himself as “reeling” in the wake of this decision. For rather than simply being an addition to the Liverpool squad, Dempsey was a key part of Rodgers’ wider strategy. It is a strategy that has not paid off.
It failed to pay off in such a spectacular manner that now the Reds have a depleted forward line due to the departure of Andy Carroll, which clearly hinged on an arrogant assumption that Dempsey was bound to join the club come what may. If Rodgers thinks he is “reeling” now, wait until Liverpool supporters begin to register their concerns with him over the club’s dismal transfer activity this summer. Having said, to The Sun of all publications, that he would be “insane” to allow Carroll to leave for West Ham on loan without a replacement lined up, what exactly happened?
Carroll left to reginite a career that was deliberately held up by intransigent managers and intolerant fans on Merseyside and the club now has Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini, a 21-year-old whose best form came on loan at Swansea back in 2011 to lead the line for the next few months. Shockingly, The Sun rejoiced in reminding the public, and Rodgers, of his brainless stupidity. However, its keen sense of schadenfreude aside, we here at The Armchair Pundits agree with your words, Brendan. Very perceptive. It was insane, and it will come back to haunt you.
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